Dave White Municipal Golf Course: Workers trying to weed out problems (Sept 15)

September 15, 2015 – Maintaining Dave White Municipal Golf Course can be a game of priorities, according to Casa Grande Community Services Director Bill Schwind.

The course has seen a greater prevalence of khaki weed sprouting up this summer, potentially causing a nuisance for golfers. The waxy weed resembles a bundle of four-leafed clovers and blends in well with surrounding grass.

“It basically doesn’t act like grass, it’s a very grabby substance and its just problematic,” Schwind said.

The best time to chemically treat the weed is in the spring. But Schwind said the maintenance staff was preoccupied this spring with fixing infrastructure problems, such as broken sprinkler lines and water pump issues. Not to mention spending $30,000 on refurbishing two golf holes, which Schwind said had little turf on them this same time last year.

“We’re moving this course, I believe, in the right direction,” he said, “but it will take time and patience.”

Some regular golfers, including Steve Hollenbeck, think the condition of the course has weakened since maintenance responsibilities became privatized last year. The City Council voted to outsource the work to Falcon Golf Management in a two-year contract agreement.

Hollenbeck thinks smaller duties such as weed pulling are getting overlooked since Falcon Golf Management is shorthanded with staff.

“I think their goal is keep their greens good,” he said, “so that’s the only thing they’re maintaining decently.”

When the city government oversaw maintenance of the course, they had a contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections to utilize about 10 inmates to conduct basic labor.

Schwind said the inmates did get the work done, but it opened up a series of supervisory issues.

“There were a lot of headaches associated with that labor,” he said.

Inmates handling sharp blades on the mowers was one concern that carried a lot of liability, according to Schwind.

As a commercial business, Falcon Golf Management cannot contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections. This has created a crunch when finding staff to keep up some grounds work.

Golfer Chad Clapp said the lack of manpower is what’s keeping the course from its fullest potential. He’s been golfing there since he was a teenager and said he remembers when the course used to have the best greens in the summertime.

Oscar Syck, another golfer, said he has no complaints about the course and thinks the condition has greatly improved in the last year.

Opinions may be subjective, but Mike DeCrescenza, the golf course’s superintendent, takes them seriously.

He admits he finds the presence of unsightly weeds “unacceptable,” though it may be the lesser of two evils when it comes to restoring a golf course’s turf.

When DeCrescenza took over as supervisor last year, he said he was up for the challenge of replenishing fairways marked with patches of missing grass.

Then he stumbled upon the dreaded khaki weed, a herb he said he’d never encountered before coming to the Dave White course.

After doing some research, DeCrescenza found there was no quick fix for eradicating the weed. A combination of chemicals can effectively eliminate it for a season but won’t permanently banish it.

Kai Umeda, a University of Arizona extension agent specializing in turf grass, said getting rid of this type of weed is best done through focusing on a golf course’s entire grass base.

He said nourishing the turf back to health will keep the weed from sprouting in the long-end.

This is the strategy DeCrescenza’s taken as he’s spent the past year attempting to improve the course’s Bermuda grass bases with extensive aerification techniques, fertilizer treatments and repairing irrigation lines.

“As we improve the Bermuda grass base out there these weeds are gonna start getting choked out even more and more,” DeCrescenza said.

Looking back on his first year, DeCrescenza said he thinks the course has made great progress. He said two golf holes have considerably more turf than before, and he hopes to budget in the cost to chemically treat khaki weeds next spring.

Though he said patience is the greatest virtue people in golf management business can learn to practice.

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